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    Antibiotic overuse for acne common, misunderstood

    Recent research suggests dermatologists are prescribing antibiotics for acne patients even when the drugs are proven ineffective, and acne patients and their parents often underestimate the risks and potential consequences associated with antibiotic acne treatment.

    The evidence

    In a study published online September 30 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, New York University (NYU) researchers found the average duration of antibiotic use among dermatology patients with acne was 331.2 days. More than a third of those patients who were on antibiotics for a year or longer.

    The study’s lead author, Arielle Nagler, M.D., instructor, Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Dermatology Times that if a patient’s acne is not well controlled after six to eight weeks of antibiotic therapy, dermatologists should begin to discuss this with their patients and create alternative treatment plans.

    READ: Faster response to antibiotic therapy failure needed

    “Expert guidelines recommend responsible use of antibiotics in acne in light of emerging resistance. We found that patients who eventually received isotretinoin had extended exposure to antibiotics, exceeding recommendations. Early recognition of antibiotic failure and the need for isotretinoin can curtail antibiotic use,” the researchers concluded in the study’s abstract.

    While dermatologists might be overprescribing antibiotics for acne treatment, patients and their parents seem unaware of the consequences, as well as alternatives to antibiotic treatment for acne, according to a new survey by Galderma Laboratories. The survey of 809 acne patients and 210 parents of acne patients found:

    • Sixty-four percent of survey respondents were not aware that overuse of topical antibiotics to treat acne could make them a carrier of drug-resistant bacteria.
    • More than 50 percent of respondents had not spoken with their doctor about the risk of antibiotic use for acne treatment.
    • While 65 percent of respondents said that they try to avoid antibiotics unless they are the only option, only a third of those not prescribed antibiotic-free acne treatment were aware such treatments existed. 
    • Only 28 percent of those who were not prescribed antibiotic-free acne treatment had ever discussed antibiotic-free treatment for acne with their healthcare providers.

    NEXT: Talking points for dermatologists

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is president of Words Come Alive, based in Boca Raton, Florida.

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